Why did John Write About Love so Much?

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I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I find it interesting that when John left the Island of Patmos, many historians agree that he pastored the church of Ephesus. Most scholars agree that John wrote the book of 1 John in Ephesus after he wrote the Revelation on Patmos Island. This intrigues me for a couple of reasons. After seeing the apocalypse, instead of writing about secret societies and conspiracies, John’s writings become saturated in love. It makes me wonder if the book of 1 John was an attempt to help the church of Ephesus find its first love again? As John looked at the church in the last days was that his concern as well? The very first sentence in the first volume of The Conflict of the Ages series by Ellen White, starts with “God is love.” The very last sentence of the last volume of the series, is “God is love.” When John beheld the conflict of the ages in his visions, was he more impressed by love than he was beasts and dragons? Do John and the Spirit of prophecy agree that the conflict of the ages is actually all about love?

The letter to Ephesus is for anyone who has ears to hear.

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Revelation 2:4 NLT

After the descent of the Holy Spirit, when the disciples went forth to proclaim a living Saviour, their one desire was the salvation of souls. They rejoiced in the sweetness of communion with saints. They were tender, thoughtful, self-denying, willing to make any sacrifice for the truth’s sake. In their daily association with one another, they revealed the love that Christ had enjoined upon them. By unselfish words and deeds they strove to kindle this love in other hearts…..

But gradually a change came. The believers began to look for defects in others. Dwelling upon mistakes, giving place to unkind criticism, they lost sight of the Saviour and His love. They became more strict in regard to outward ceremonies, more particular about the theory than the practice of the faith. In their zeal to condemn others, they overlooked their own errors. They lost the brotherly love that Christ had enjoined, and, saddest of all, they were unconscious of their loss. They did not realize that happiness and joy were going out of their lives and that, having shut the love of God out of their hearts, they would soon walk in darkness. –Ellen White, Acts of The Apostles, Pages 547-548

In his gospel, John writes about a conversation Jesus had with a Samaritan woman. She tried to engage Jesus into a theological debate when He told her,

But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. John 4:23 NLT

Some churches have the truth but they don’t have the Spirit. When James and John offered to call fire down on the Samaritans, they may have had the truth, but they didn’t have Christ’s Spirit. Apparently there were those in Ephesus who knew better than to believe the false doctrines of the Nicolations. They had the truth, they just didn’t have the Spirit of Christ. They lost their first love. I encourage you to read the entire book of 1 John to see how John encourages Ephesus along with us to regain our first love. For now, lets take a look at a few passage in particular,

Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8 NLT

Theology is the study of God. God is love. I don’t care if your church keeps the Sabbath, knows what happens when you die, and everyone eats veggie links, while talking about who the anti christ is, if your church does not practice love it is theologically incorrect. Maybe this is why John wrote about love all the time?

If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a fellow believer, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And he has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their fellow believers. 1 John 4:20-21 NLT

John is talking about Agape. Agape is the love God has for bad people. Since God is not bad He does not need agape, so John wants us to show our agape by loving our brother who is bad. When we realize God has given us agape we will share it with others. When we find it hard to forgive and love bad people, it is often because we don’t understand how much God loves and forgives us when we are bad. Once we believe God agapes us we will find it easy to agape our neighbor. I imagine the church of Ephesus lost its first love when it took its eyes off of the crucified Savior and started looking at the faults of others. I imagine we get our first love back when we return to the cross and consider the awesome sacrifice that was made there.

It is blasphemy for me to think Jesus gave His life for the sinner lying in the gutter, but I am too good to give my time or life to save such scum. What? Am I better than Jesus? Is my life more precious than His? If Jesus gave His life to save sinners shouldn’t I give mine as well?

I heard Wintley Phipps say, “We love God no more than the sinner we love the least.” I believe that resonates with the gospel according to John. I believe it resonates with the book of Revelation and the conflict of the ages. In Matthew 25:40 regarding last day events, Jesus says how we treat the least of these is how we treat Him. I think that is why the same John who wrote so much deep theology in Revelation also wrote about love so much.

You can study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

It’s Jesus’ Church, not Mine

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV

I often read this passage thinking of Jesus talking to the worldwide church, but reality is, verse 16 tells us Jesus said this to 11 humble fishermen. That was the worldwide church! He told 11 humble fishermen to  make disciples in every nation! What an incredible command for 11 meager men! I don’t think they would have come up with such an ambitious goal on their own. Left to themselves I think they would have come up with a more realistic goal. But they weren’t left to themselves. Jesus was still with them and the Holy Spirit would help them accomplish more than that tiny group imagined possible.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. John 14:12 NKJV

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, Ephesians 3:20 NKJV

Each one reached one like Andrew always did,  as well as preaching to Crowds like Peter did in Acts 2 and they soon began multiplying as  “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:47. It is amazing to think that just as people today trace their family tree back for hundreds of years, that every believer today is a believer because someone was reached by someone who was reached by someone who was reached by someone etc. etc. who was reached by one of the 11 fishermen Jesus was speaking to! As a matter of fact, some have been reached today by one of those fishermen! A pastor told me when he was a teen, he found Jesus one night, when he picked up the Bible and read the book of John. Two thousand years later, John’s personal writings are still reaching millions firsthand!

Never has a group been so successful amidst such opposition!

Christ did not fail, neither was He discouraged, and His followers are to manifest a faith of the same enduring nature. They are to live as He lived, and work as He worked, because they depend on Him as the great Master Worker. Courage, energy, and perseverance they must possess. Though apparent impossibilities obstruct their way, by His grace they are to go forward. Instead of deploring difficulties, they are called upon to surmount them. They are to despair of nothing, and to hope for everything. With the golden chain of His matchless love Christ has bound them to the throne of God. It is His purpose that the highest influence in the universe, emanating from the source of all power, shall be theirs. They are to have power to resist evil, power that neither earth, nor death, nor hell can master, power that will enable them to overcome as Christ overcame.-Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Pages 679-680.

How it must have comforted John, when He saw Jesus in the midst of the lamp stands which represents the churches. See Revelation 1:12-19. Jesus was still with His church,and has promised to never leave His church. So don’t you leave it either! As a matter of fact, by sending the Holy Spirit we all have local access to God. A former student of mine who moved to the mountains of Chile, wrote to tell me he had begun personal Bible studies with a friend on their way home from school. When my young friend shares the gospel on the rocky roads in the mountains of Chile the same Holy Spirit is with him that is with the General conference president in Maryland. The General Conference office has no location advantage. The Holy Spirit is all over the world!

With the Holy Spirit all over the world and Jesus in the midst of His church, we can do amazing things! Greater than we even imagine possible. The good news is it is Jesus’ church and not mine. Last Summer the senior pastor at my church took another assignment. It was just me until another senior pastor came in the fall. My church had a lot going on and I almost became overwhelmed until I remembered it wasn’t my church! It’s Jesus’ church. When I was a lay pastor and Bible Worker in a small church in west Texas, the members occasionally told me they could not survive without me, and I was young and dumb enough to believe them. Fact is the membership more than doubled after I finally left! It wasn’t my church it was Jesus’ church! Also during that same time, another church I was helping  had a leader who thought he owned the church, since he thought he gave most the money. He tried to manipulate me to follow him instead of the senior pastor. I told him I work for Jesus and not the richest person in the church. He laughed at me! He finally took his money and left, thinking the church would collapse without his money. He forgot it was not his church! It was Jesus’ church, and right after he left, we had some evangelism meetings and so many people started coming into the church that we had to build a bigger building!

I studied with several young people in the first church I was talking about, who were baptized. They came in the church with some new ideas. They wanted to change the times for Sabbath School and Church. The older members were upset and one of them told me, “Don’t let those kids take over our church!” She was insinuating it was her church and not theirs. Sadly every single one of those young people left! They did not want to take over the church. They just wanted to be part of the church. Sadly some try to manipulate others by telling them it is not their church, it belongs to God, when in reality they just want to do their own thing, not God’s. So don’t let anyone tell you to keep your opinion to yourself because it is not your church, unless they are also willing to keep their own opinion to themselves, because it is not their church either. Fact is we are all a part of the church and have a responsibility and voice.

Without counsel, plans go awry, But in the multitude of counselors they are established. Proverbs 15:22 NKJV

But over every one of us Jesus is the Head of the church. It is His church, and its success relies upon Him. John was glad to see Jesus in the midst of the candle sticks in his day, and I am glad to see Jesus in the midst of His church today. Because it is Jesus’ church and its success depends on Him, we can see amazing results today.

You can study Revelation with millions of others here.